Did you ever wonder how French toast got its name? Did the French culture really ‘invent’ it? In fact, the delicious dish known today as French toast in America was actually first created before France was even a country! Ancient records have shown that the Romans would dip stale bread in milk and eggs and fry it to make otherwise tasteless bread tastier—nothing was wasted as far as food was concerned! Over the years, it has been called German toast, Spanish toast, etc. depending on the country where it is made. In France today, this dish is called ‘pain perdu’, or “lost bread.” When immigrants from France came to the US, the dish was associated with their heritage, and the name “French toast” came into being.
Food + Family = Culture
Food is such an integral part of any culture, reflecting the history, geography, and traditions of a country. It can tell us a lot about daily life and cultural values. For kids, it can be fun to learn about the eating habits of people in other countries and make comparisons with their own family dining traditions.
An apple—or a baguette–a day…
You can get a glimpse of world food traditions by visiting this site which displays what a week’s worth of groceries looks like for families around the world. You can see the variety of meats, drinks, vegetables, breads, and grains from different parts of the world. Kids will also notice how the abundance and variety of food choices change from one culture to another. While this is only a glimpse of the world, it can provide a starting point for conversations about culture that can help children better understand the world in which we live in.
In addition to considering the typical foods from around the world, be sure to look at the clothing, houses, and décor of the families. Where can you find the similarities and differences?
When you think of “food” and “learning,” what comes to mind? A cooking class? Getting a candy treat for a job well done? Given the rise of both food allergies and childhood obesity, food has been pretty much expelled from the classroom in most schools. However, food is an integral part of our daily life and our culture, and we learn a lot about other countries from their food traditions. So how can we incorporate food into learning in a healthy, informative, and fun way? Here are a few activities to use when learning the names of different foods in another language!
3 ideas for food-related language lessons
Using the printable materials from ChooseMyPlate.gov, teach children the names of different kinds of vegetables, fruits, meats and grains. Have them sort the vocabulary on the plate, grouping foods in categories. Decide which combination of foods would make a balanced meal.
Pretend you are shopping for a meal at the market and you have a budget. Assign different foods a price, and ask children which items they can buy to stay on budget. You can adapt this for younger kids (using whole numbers) or older kids (decimal prices and/or multiplying numbers) to help practice math skills while learning the language words.
Ask students to bring in a recipe of a favorite family dish. What foods are included? How does the dish reflect their traditions or culture? Learn language words to describe the dishes: hot, cold, spicy, sweet, etc. Make a take-home class cookbook with copies of the recipes organized by category.
Using food vocabulary and cooking verbs/commands, create two sets of flashcards. Pick a card from each pile and make a list of steps for creating your imaginary dish. Do you have to “peel the chicken” or “slice the rice?” When you have 5 or 6 steps, demonstrate the actions for the class or draw a picture of the completed funny dish!
Have fun and get creative with language and food! Bon appétit!